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NBA Rookie Rankings Vol. 2: Where will Cade Cunningham rank?

Cade Cunningham enters the discussion for top rookie in the class, but still trails Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Vol. 2 of our NBA Rookie Rankings! I know you all have been waiting patiently to see where your favorite rookies land on this list (most notably, the one wearing the Pistons jersey) and now the wait is over.

Before we jump in, let’s review the methodology.

Methodology

Rookies who make this list averaged at least 20 minutes per game (as of the time of this writing). If only five rookies are eligible, only five rookies would make the list. Additionally, if 23 rookies averaged 20 minutes per game, 23 rookies would make the list.

For example, Vol. 2 features 11 rookies, whereas Vol. 1 featured 13 rookies. Lastly, just like most rankings, players can make the list on one edition and miss on the next. For example, the Houston Rockets Alperen Sengun was 10th overall in Vol. 1, but has since fallen off the list as his minutes per game have dropped to 17.7.

Players who meet the minutes per game criteria will then be evaluated using traditional and advanced stats. Lastly, we will take the ranking for points, AST%, TS%, rebounding, turnover, and defensive rating for each player and then average their rank in these categories to determine our final rankings for this article.

Stats for this article, and future articles in the series will be compiled from Basketball Refence’s NBA rookie page and NBA.com’s advanced statistics page.

One of the main reasons it is beneficial to review the data this way is it takes all the volume and efficiency data into account when deriving the rankings.

Let’s jump in to the data! (All stats are updated as of Dec. 11).

*Please note that the Brooklyn Nets’ David Duke has been removed from the data set. While Duke met the qualifications for inclusion based on the 20 minutes per game criteria, Duke only has a 1 game sample size and therefore was removed.

Traditional Stats

Per Game Stats Ranked by MPG

Player G MP FG% 3P% FT% FGA 3PA PTS REB AST TOV STL BLK
Player G MP FG% 3P% FT% FGA 3PA PTS REB AST TOV STL BLK
Scottie Barnes 24 36.0 0.489 0.34 0.723 305 50 15.1 8.3 3.3 2.0 1.2 0.9
Evan Mobley 23 33.3 0.481 0.333 0.783 262 42 13.9 8.2 2.5 1.7 0.9 2.0
Josh Giddey 23 29.6 0.404 0.259 0.7 250 81 10.6 6.7 5.9 2.9 1.0 0.6
Cade Cunningham 20 32.0 0.375 0.306 0.854 301 144 15.3 6.2 4.5 3.7 1.4 0.6
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 25 21.9 0.419 0.338 0.667 155 77 6.8 6 0.9 0.8 0.5 0.3
Franz Wagner 26 31.7 0.442 0.378 0.817 310 98 13.8 4.4 2.8 1.2 1.2 0.5
Chris Duarte 26 29.5 0.426 0.343 0.744 317 137 13.3 4 2.1 1.6 1.1 0.1
Jalen Suggs 21 27.8 0.339 0.255 0.763 257 102 12.3 3.4 3.6 3.2 1.1 0.4
Herb Jones 25 27.0 0.468 0.385 0.767 154 26 7.1 3.4 1.8 1.1 1.4 0.8
Jalen Green 18 30.8 0.382 0.278 0.807 228 115 14 3.1 2.3 2.7 0.6 0.2
Davion Mitchell 26 25.5 0.387 0.288 0.667 253 104 9.5 2.6 3.4 1.0 0.7 0.2

Advanced Stats Sorted by Usage % (RK indiactes MPG rank)

RK Player G MP TS% USG% AST % DEF RTG
RK Player G MP TS% USG% AST % DEF RTG
3 Cade Cunningham 20 32.0 47.8 26.1 25.3 108.1
8 Jalen Suggs 21 27.8 44.4 25.4 20.3 106.2
5 Jalen Green 18 30.8 49.8 22.3 13.2 112.6
6 Josh Giddey 23 29.6 46.4 20.8 32.5 109.8
7 Chris Duarte 26 29.5 51.4 20.7 10.4 105.2
4 Franz Wagner 26 31.7 53.5 19 14 111
2 Evan Mobley 23 33.3 54.7 18.7 11.6 99
1 Scottie Barnes 24 36.0 54.3 18.6 14.3 108.3
10 Davion Mitchell 26 25.5 46.2 18.2 20.8 107.3
11 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 25 21.9 51.8 14.4 6.3 110.4
9 Herb Jones 25 27.0 52.9 12.2 9.1 107.2

Rookie Ranking Vol. 2 (Updated thru Dec. 11)

overall Rank Player PTS REB AST % TS % TOV DEF RTG Total Average
overall Rank Player PTS REB AST % TS % TOV DEF RTG Total Average
1 Evan Mobley 4 2 8 1 7 1 3.8
2 Scottie Barnes 2 1 5 2 8 7 4.2
3 Franz Wagner 5 6 6 3 2 10 5.3
4 Cade Cunningham 1 4 2 8 12 6 5.5
5 Chris Duarte 6 7 9 6 5 2 5.8
6 Josh Giddey 8 3 1 9 10 8 6.5
6 Jalen Suggs 7 8 4 11 6 3 6.5
8 Davion Mitchell 9 12 3 10 1 5 6.7
9 Jalen Green 3 10 7 7 4 11 7.0
10 Herb Jones 11 8 10 4 11 4 8.0
11 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 10 11 11 5 9 9 9.2

Takeaways from Vol. 2

We predicted in Vol. 1 that the Detroit Pistons Cade Cunningham would rise, based off of his small sample size of games. Remember, that small sample included some games where Cade had to knock off some rust due to a preseason ankle injury.

Well, Cade has risen almost to the top of the list, all the way from 11th overall in the inaugural addition. In fact, if you removed the turnover metric from this ranking system, Cade, the Cleveland Cavaliers Evan Mobley, and Toronto Raptors Scottie Barnes would all be tied for the top spot.

Cade’s seven-spot climb represents the biggest change on the list, but it’s also notable to point out that there’s a new No. 1 player in Vol. 2, Evan Mobley. Mobley came in tied for 2nd on the list with the Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner in Vol. 1, just behind Barnes. Now the two have flipped, and Wagner holds third place all by himself.

As mentioned early, the list of names has changed too. Sengun, Los Angels Lakers forward Austin Reeves, and New Orleans Pelicans wing Trey Murphy have all fallen off the rankings as their minutes per game have dropped below 20. Additionally, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of the Oklahoma City Thunder has made the rankings for the first time.

Forecasting Vol. 3

As the sample size continues to increase we should expect that this list will begin to stabilize. Of course, as the season goes on, losing teams may decide to give their rookies more run. If that’s the case, we will obviously see an increase in names on the list.

While the list of players may change overall, we are seeing rookies starting to cement themselves at the top of the list. Indiana Pacers shooter Chris Duarte and Thunder wing Josh Giddey have held strong as top 6 options through Vol. 2. Houston Rockets scorer Jalen Green and Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell have held firm in their top 10 status.

We should expect to continue seeing Green, Mitchell, Wagner, Giddey, Duarte, Cunningham, Mobley, Suggs and Barnes.

With Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs and the Rockets’ Green both dealing with injuries, we likely won’t see too much movement in where they fall in Vol. 3.

In terms of forecasting the biggest riser, I maintain that Cunningham will continue to work his way toward the top of the list. Cunningham increased his true shooting percentage from almost 35% to almost 48%, and his AST% and scoring climbed as well. If Cunningham can reduce his turnovers, he has a chance to top the list in Vol. 3.